IRS Employee Charged in $1 Million ID Theft Tax Fraud Scheme
BIRMINGHAM -- Federal officials today announced arrests and charges in a stolen identity tax-refund scheme believed to involve more than $1 million in false claims and run by an IRS employee who was supposed to be assisting taxpayers experiencing problems resulting from identity theft.
A federal grand jury earlier this month indicted NAKEISHA HALL, JIMMIE GOODMAN and ABDULLA COLEMAN for their involvement in a 2008 to 2011 scheme operated out of Birmingham that involved stealing personal identity information from the Internal Revenue Service to create fraudulent tax returns and collecting the stolen refunds, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, IRS Criminal Investigation, St. Louis Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Karl A. Stiften, and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Mid-States Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Ruben Florez. The indictment was unsealed with today’s arrests.
Hall, 39, is an IRS employee who worked in the Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Birmingham from July 2007 to November 2011. Since November 2011, Hall has worked in Taxpayer Advocate Service offices in Omaha, Neb., New Orleans, La., and Salt Lake City, Utah. Federal agents arrested Hall today in Holly Springs, Miss. Federal agents also arrested Goodman, 37, of Birmingham, at her Cherry Avenue residence. Coleman, 37, formerly of Birmingham, is already in state custody in Wisconsin on unrelated charges.
In conjunction with the arrests of Hall and Goodman, federal officials also unsealed charges relating to another co-conspirator, LASHON ROBERSON. The Government filed a five-count information in October charging Roberson, 36, of Pelham, with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud Affecting a Financial Institution and four counts of Mail Fraud Affecting a Financial Institution.
“Taxpayers trust, and expect, that IRS employees, as a whole, will safeguard their most sensitive personal information. Taxpayers also must trust that IRS employees in the Taxpayer Advocate Service will not only protect their sensitive information but will actively assist them when it has been compromised by others,” Vance said. “An IRS taxpayer advocate who exploits that trust, and with full knowledge of the significant impacts of identity theft, uses her IRS access to compromise taxpayers’ identities and steal a million dollars from the U.S. Treasury is committing a particularly egregious crime that will not go unpunished,” Vance said. “I thank the TIGTA and IRS-CI investigators who worked diligently with my office to bring this case forward.”
“It is the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration's mission to protect the integrity of the Internal Revenue Service and promote the fair administration of our federal tax system,” Florez said. “IRS employees must conduct themselves with the highest level of integrity and their conduct must be above reproach. IRS employees who commit aggravated identity theft, steal government funds and access taxpayer information without authorization cannot be tolerated,” he said. “TIGTA will work closely with the United States Attorney’s Office to hold individuals, particularly those in positions of public trust, responsible for their illegal activities.”
“Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude and with this degree of dishonesty and deceit deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Stiften said. “IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners remain vigilant in identifying, investigating and prosecuting those individuals who seek to willfully defraud the United States Treasury and blatantly disregard the victims of their schemes,” he said. “The bad acts of one IRS employee shouldn’t taint the great work done by the thousands of IRS employees who assist taxpayers each and every day.”
The December indictment charges Hall, Goodman and Coleman with conspiring with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury to commit bank fraud and mail fraud affecting a financial institution. The indictment also charges Hall with one count each of theft of government funds, aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access to a protected computer.
Hall, Goodman, Coleman and others conspired to defraud both the IRS and financial institutions, including Bancorp Bank, between January 2008 and November 2011, and used the U.S. mail to execute the fraud, according to the indictment. Hall, Goodman, Coleman and others also conspired to obtain money from Bancorp Bank and other financial institutions. Bancorp Bank and other financial institutions issue stand-alone debit cards for the purpose of accepting tax refunds.
The multi-year conspiracy was conducted as follows, according to the indictment:
Hall obtained individuals’ names, birth dates and Social Security numbers through unauthorized access to IRS computers. Hall used the personal identity information to prepare fraudulent income tax returns and submitted them electronically to the IRS. Hall requested that the IRS pay the refunds onto debit cards and directed that the cards be mailed to drop addresses that she controlled. Hall solicited and received drop addresses from Goodman, Coleman and other co-conspirators, who also collected the refund cards from the mail.
Hall activated the cards by using stolen identity information. She, Goodman, Coleman and other co-conspirators took the money off the debit cards at ATMs or used the cards for purchases. If the fraudulent returns generated U.S. Treasury checks rather than the requested debit cards, Hall and her co-conspirators used fraudulent endorsements in order to cash the checks. Hall compensated Goodman, Coleman and other co-conspirators by giving them a portion of the refund money, or by giving them refund cards for their own use.
The theft, aggravated identity, and unauthorized access counts relate to two specific taxpayers’ information that Hall accessed and used in 2010.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum prison penalty for theft of government funds is 10 years in prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year prison term, and unauthorized access to a protected computer carries a maximum five-year prison term. All three charges carry a maximum $250,000 penalty.
IRS-CI and TIGTA investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica Williamson Barnes is prosecuting.
An indictment contains only charges. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.